Those who have keenly followed the trajectory of Nigeria’s journey as a nation since she gained independence from the British in 1960 will tell you that her journey has been badly slowed down by bad leadership.
The country has undergone painful experiences in the last 61 years, trying to find a leadership structure that would engender rapid growth, unity and prosperity for all with little success.
In that time, the country’s elite have romanced all forms of government ranging from parliamentary system to the presidential system without actually finding the one most suitable for it’s developmental goals.
Add the years of locust that was characterised by crude military interventions in governance and what you have is a period of uncertainties and stunted growth.
Interestingly, it was during this military era Nigerians witnessed young officers storming to power through the barrel of the gun.
General Yakubu Gowon became military head of state shortly after the bloody Kaduna Chukwuma Nzeogwu coup of 1966. He had the unenviable task of seeing the country through her most turbulent period ever during the civil war.
He was just 29.
And ruled for nine years, the longest so far in the annals of the country’s political evolution.
He was equally succeeded by General Murtala Muhammad who seized power via a military coup in 1975.
Before he was brutally assassinated and his government abruptly brought to an unceremonious end via the Buka Suka Dimka-led military coup of February 13, 1976, Muhammad was only 38 years old.
That is the only memories Nigerians have of young persons ever assuming the mantle of leadership in the country so far.
Hon. Dimeji Bankole as Speaker of the House of Representatives between 2005 and 2007 was the closest the country ever got to seeing a younger man in the corridors of power.
He was ranked Nigeria’s 4th most powerful political leader by virtue of the nomenclature of the presidential system of government the country still runs.
He was then just 39 years old.
Ever since, the country has seen geriatric politicians running the show at almost all levels of government, be it, local, state or federal.
If Nigerians thought they had seen enough of former military rulers transmuting into civilian presidents going by the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo example, the return of Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 easily extinguished all hopes of a younger man ever assuming power as president of Africa’s most populous nation.
Arguments have in the last few years been bandied back and forth about the proprietary or otherwise of having more of the country’s youth seeking power at the centre as a way of effecting a paradigm shift that would usher in a new order and break the tenacious grip the older, recycled politicians have had on the country’s power equation for decades.
Astute political watchers have however insisted that only a vigorous all-inclusive participation in the political process could open the door for the emergence of a younger man as president as it can not be handed down by the older sit-tight generation on a platter of gold.
THE YAHAYA BELLO OPPORTUNITY
But by recently deciding to throw his hat in the ring to run for president come 2023, Yahaya Bello has not only made the statement about being ready to challenge the status quo but has reignited the argument about the suitability of a youth becoming president of Nigeria next year.
Bello, by the most uncanny twist of fate found himself crowned as governor of Kogi State in 2016 at just the ripe age of 40, thus becoming the first man born after the civil war to rule a state in Nigeria.
He also holds the record as the youngest ever to govern a state through the ballot in the country’s history.
At the time he took the reins as chief executive, the confluence state was known for never agreeing on a single issue as selfish politicians fanned the embers of disunity, thus dividing the state — already a multi-lingual, and multi-religious entity — along ethnic lines.
But by deciding to run an all-inclusive government where the various ethnic groups have been given a sense of belonging in the provision of amenities as well as in appointments to sensitive positions in government, Yahaya Bello has been able to glue together a state of hitherto strange bedfellows.
This, plus the innovative manner he has completely shut down criminal activities in the state by adopting a system of collaborations between vigilante groups and the police has blown his profile into another orbit.
His astuteness as an administrator horned from years as a renowned chartered accountant has been quite handy in the manner he has engaged all sectors of the state’s economy.
His Health Plus Program has seen the establishment of a primary health care centre in all the 21 local government areas of the state, while his huge expenditure on patrol vehicles for the police has helped to facilitate crime fighting in the state.
His agricultural incentives of loans and implements to farmers, his rural electrification projects that have seen the completion of the Lokoja (Banda)-Koton Karfe electrification project and others too numerous to mention, are the proofs of his managerial acumen as a worthy presidential material.
Yahaya Bello has also in recent years endeared himself to millions of Nigerians at home and abroad for always being in the vanguard of promoting values that unite rather than divide.
He has never shied away from calling a spade by it’s name even at the risk of criticisms. And this has won him even more converts who see his boldness and outspokenness as an asset, rather than a liability for a man who seeking to make history as the youngest, elected president of Nigeria.
Once again, the presidential race has been thrown open to candidates who think they have the wherewithal to deliver the goods come 2023.
There is talk that leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, his protege and current vice-president, Yemi Osinbajo and PDP’s Alhaji Atiku Abubakar are all gearing up for the presidential race.
The common thread that runs through their candidature, however, is their age — old age.
Yahaya Bello, therefore, presents a refreshing departure from all of these heavyweights.
Most analysts have maintained that a young man with the track record of Bello in governance is necessarily the beacon of hope for a Nigeria of the future.
Bello, they say, can change the present sordid narrative of under-development, mass unemployment, insecurity, poor infrastructure, massive corruption and marginalisation of the many ethnic nationalities that make up the country.
Bello himself has been humble to acknowledge that even though there are older people with the passion and altruistic zeal to administer the country to the satisfaction of it’s citizens, it is still necessary that a youth takes over the mantle of leadership at the centre this time around.
“We always ask that youth should come on board. As much as we are saying elders should go home and rest.
“There are some elders who have the capacity, are passionate, patriotic and ready to sacrifice for the country.
“We need youth with capacity, zeal, integrity, determination and impeccable records.
Going into 2023, our records will speak for us”, Bello was once quoted as saying when being interviewed about his presidential ambition.
The gale of positive responses that have trailed his presidential bid from youths across the length and breadth of the country, as well as in the diaspora is evidence that Bello will not be a pushover in next year’s presidential race, no matter who his opponents will be.
The opinion expressed here on Governor Yahaya Bello’s chances of becoming Nigeria’s next president come 2023 does not represent the opinion of www.newwavereporters.com as a media organisation but that of the writer, Henry Okoduwa, who is a seasoned journalist, media consultant and freelance reporter.